6 Ways to Turn Down a Business Opportunity Without Harming Any Relationships

10/20/2016 10:31 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

As a new business owner, it can be tempting to say "yes" to opportunity that comes your way. But once you have a better sense of what the right opportunities are, you'll feel more comfortable turning down those that don't suit your business.

 

A. Offer Alternatives

2016-10-17-1476714750-2885161-JohnArroyo.pngIf you demonstrate that there are better solutions to the prospect's needs, it becomes very easy to turn down their business. If the alternatives happen to be more compelling than what you would deliver in that situation, you don't actually need to say "no." In one case, I explained how the prospect could accomplish their goals without me, and even do it themselves to save some money. - John Arroyo, Arroyo Labs, Inc.

A. Refer Them to a Friend

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Sometimes the client just isn't the right fit for your company. In that case, don't just say, "sorry, can't help you." Instead, actively seek to find them the right partner to get the job done. I've found time and time again that referring people to other capable, vetted partners establishes trust and ultimately wins you more business. - Ben Maitland-Lewis, Pretty Instant

A. Remember That It's Business, Not a Marriage

2016-10-17-1476714814-604303-AngelaDelmedico.pngEvery business opportunity isn't always the right fit for both parties. In that case, be transparent and offer solutions, alternatives, advice or referrals to help their trajectory and goals. At my previous company, we sourced many vendors for a new product launch. If they weren't right for the job, they simply let us know and offered help to get us there. Honesty and goodwill always win. - Angela Delmedico, Elev8 Consulting Group

A. Be Transparent

2016-10-17-1476714841-3978595-StevenBuchwald.pngBe transparent, but also be respectful. Apologize for not being able to work with the prospect, speak to the positives of working with them, and then explain why you can't do it. Make sure they understand why you're turning down their offer, and that they come to that understanding without getting offended. - Steven Buchwald, The E2 Visa Lawyer

A. Have a Good Reason

2016-10-17-1476714867-2036245-AjmalSaleem.pngIn today's networking world, you need to be able to explain why you turned down a business opportunity and be tactful about it. Didn't like the deal? Try explaining. Too occupied? Also explain. This is honestly the best solution to a majority of problems. - Ajmal Saleem, Suprex Learning

A. Be Smart About It

2016-10-17-1476714892-6171370-BenWalker.pngMake sure you tell the truth so that you don't burn any bridges. We had a medical transcription client that was demanding a lot of our resources a few years ago: Instead of just letting them go, we offered them time to find a suitable replacement and worked with them until they were able to do so. It took three months, and we still help them once in awhile when they need it. - Ben Walker, Transcription Outsourcing, LLC

 

These answers are provided by members of FounderSociety, an invitation-only organization comprised of ambitious startup founders and business owners.